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#435638 - 04/13/12 01:58 PM Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way
Marty Offline

Mysterious Spot On Ambergris Caye: Abandoned Wedding Chapel and a Giant Whale Too? Essene Way

Located about 3.5 miles north of the bridge, sandwiched between Captain Morgan's Resort & Casino to the south and Coco Beach to the north, is Essene Way. A large property right on the beach that has been closed for quite a while, I took a walk around this place yesterday and found it very very intriguing.

It has a wedding chapel, biblical references, angel and eagle statuary, large empty pools, a huge cement whale, a crumbling dock, a cracked basketball court and overgrown trees and bushes. There appear to be quite a few people living on the property.

Open as early as the 80s, this property was called The Belizean Hotel. The luxury hotel was built and run by a French family, the Pierres, (possibly the heirs to the company that produces Perrier water) but sold when a family member passed (or it went bust...there are a few accounts). Apparently they were well known for lavish parties and entertaining.

According to Belizefirst.com, the facility was then purchased in 1993, was renovated for $7 million USD and then opened in 1997 by developer, biblical scholar and food supplement entrepreneur Tom Ciola (owner of "Hot Stuff" supplements) to offer free vacations to terminally ill adults. Mr. Ciola entered into a $2 million USD contract with an American company for complete solar energy. There was also a reverse osmosis water treatment system in place. When the resort opened, Ciola stated that they didn't have enough funds yet to make the property 100% humanitarian but that was the end goal. (Rates at the time were quoted as $125 USD a night).

Paul Ciola, the owner's son, operated a pizza restaurant and delivery service on the property before the Hurricane Keith. A few years later, he returned and opened another pizza joint in town. It was called Pauly's Pizza. (There is a full article on the operation in this 2005 San Pedro Sun. I like Pauly's money back guarantee on pizza. Pedro's take note). Caliente, a very popular Mexican food place, also used to have an outpost as "Caliente North" at Essene Way.

I find all of this fascinating...almost too interesting to be true. And the actual property just as interesting. Anyone who has been here longer than me (6 years now), probably knows lots about this mystery development. Any and all information or speculation on this property would be appreciated. Now I'm hooked.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos on San Pedro Scoop

#435647 - 04/13/12 02:49 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
To help untangle the tale ......
The original owner was Paul Duhane (sp) heir to the Perrier fortune.
He developed the Belizean Hotel - it had six fabulous cabins and a lounge. The lounge was spectacular in a very elegant understated way. All white overstuffed furniture, dark mahogany wood, beveled glass window panes. Wonderful. One of the cabins was stranger than strange --- it had a huge jacuzzi tub in the kitchen, and a series of locker-room toilets stalls across the back wall (of the kitchen, yep).
He died.
After his death, the place was sold to some developers who tried and failed at building and selling condo-cabanas (the ones you see now).
The bank took it back and sat on it for a while.
The current owner bought it during the 90's and went nuts spending and building. The super-large structure on the property now was to have been his family home. The aim was to have his family live there after a cataclysm in the year 2000.
He put up the largest solar-panel installation in Central America, he brought in an array of pairs of animals & a lot of black dirt for growing food.
He built a survival dome and stocked it with food. He put in not only the concrete whale, but a half-Jonah sticking out of the ground with arms up-stretched .... and more.
He did not buy hurricane insurance.
The world did not end, but we had a doozy of a hurricane. The buildings did not do too well in that storm, the property was not put back to rights and the family lost interest in the project.
The adult children of the owner did their best to make something work there after the hurricane, but that phase has now passed.
The property is now (and has been for some years)under contract with a development group that hopes one day to do a hotel or whatever there.
Meanwhile, the decrepit cabins are being rented to a host of folks and it's barely maintained. The semi-empty pool hosts green water and mosquitoes during rainy season.

#435655 - 04/13/12 03:03 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
BrusselSprout Offline
My obsession grows...

#435683 - 04/13/12 05:57 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Sorry Sprout - I had not read the whole article when I posted my own short version ..... you write a great story!

I do have some more giggles to add -
Before the Bible Bars there was the affiliation with Mr. Universe pageants - and the manufacture of body-building powders and energy enhancers (Big Bang and Up Your Gas). There was a brief time on AC when "Up Your Gas" pills were being downed by quite a number of people in town - they absolutely bounced off walls on this stuff. The main ingredients are now banned most places.

#435691 - 04/13/12 06:31 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
hey sprout, i have an old video from when it was the essenne way. some kind of promotional vid. a good friend lived on the property for years. we wandered all over the place. poking around into drawers and finding cool stuff like the video. it was deserted. awesome place. love that whale, and all the other ceramic animals here and there. the restaurant area is fabulous, full of glass. it was awesome when Caliente was there.

the chapel was sooooooo beautiful inside before it got emptied out. i got real sad when it got hollowed out. Even when the resort was unoccupied the chapel was nice for awhile...

#435696 - 04/13/12 06:40 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
BrusselSprout Offline
Diane, your version has some good stuff. Up your gas? Nice...some sort of upper? I would love to see the promotional video. Pizza guy turned reverend? Really...it's amazing information.

#435697 - 04/13/12 06:41 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

#435698 - 04/13/12 06:41 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
i'll try to dig up that video

#435700 - 04/13/12 06:53 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
hey diane i am going nuts trying to remember what it was just before essene way. do you remember? seems like it started with "A"

#435710 - 04/13/12 07:26 PM Re: Abandoned chapel, giant whale: Essene Way [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Hmmmmm can't recall Marty - curious.

It's been known as the Obscene Way for a long time due to the obscene amounts of money spent .....

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